Satoshi Ohashi – Global Design Lab

Director of Zaha Hadid Architects China, Satoshi Ohashi.

The 3rd Shenyang Creative Design Week

Architectural Design Theme Forum for Urban Creative Design


The 3rd Shenyang Creative Design Week and the launching ceremony of the “Global Design Laboratory” took place in Grand Hyatt Hotel Shenyang.

Organizers: Heping District Party Committee Propaganda Department, Heping Cultural Tourism and Radio & Television Bureau

Partners: F&M Media, Baisha Island Financial Ecological Town

Special partner: Kaisheng Stone

The director of Zaha Hadid Architects China, Satoshi Ohashi, gave a keynote speech during the “Global Design Laboratory”. In his speech, he shared plenty of projects and architectural concepts from all around the world. Those projects include the nearly complete Beijing Daxing Airport, Istanbul’s urban design plan, Guangzhou Opera House, Seoul Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Changsha Meixihu International Culture Art Centre, and many others.

More than 800 hundred people came to listen to Satoshi Ohashi’s speech last time when he came to Shenyang in May 2016. This time he came here again to bring more top-notch creative design cases. On the same day, more than 500 architects, designers, artists, and creative industry professionals attended the event.

Ohashi joined Zaha Hadid Architects in 1987. Since that time he has been working closely with Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher.

Satoshi Ohashi was born in Japan, raised in the United States. He worked in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo. Currently, he is based in Beijing, China.

Since being appointed as the director of the Asia-Pacific China region, he worked on many award-winning projects. Those include Galaxy SOHO, Wangjing SOHO, Lingkong SOHO, Leeza SOHO, National Art Museum of China and Beijing Daxing Airport.


Satoshi Ohashi: Good morning, everybody! We have been to Shenyang in 2016, and today we are happy to be back and have the opportunity to introduce our latest design works.

First of all, I would like to thank the organizers for inviting us again. It’s a pleasure to be here. I hope that the projects that we share with you today will inspire you.

Zaha Hadid Architects headquarter is in London. We have offices in New York, Mexico, Dubai, and Beijing. The team has a variety of projects in different parts of the world, and I want to share some of those projects with you.

What you can see on the screen now is the early renderings, all of them are hand-drawn sketches. Most of our inspiration comes from nature.

© Zaha Hadid Architects

Each project is designed according to its unique environment. Our designs cover a wide range of scales, from urban planning to tiny furniture pieces.

Today I will share a few projects. The first one is in urban planning.

We use advanced technology to study the logical relationship between things in nature. And we apply what we learn in our works.

When we design a new project, we try to understand what will it add to the city when it’s complete. All buildings and urban planning elements have a sense of communication with nature.

Heydar Aliyev Centre ©Zaha Hadid Architects

The other project is located in the centre of New City in Baku, Azerbaijan. Heydar Aliyev Centre has a performance centre, a library and a few other public spaces. When you walk into the building, you see that its design is a fusion of indoors and outdoors. The core space is an auditorium with many layers that are creating a very warm and comfy feeling.

Guangzhou Opera House © Zaha Hadid Architects

The next project, Guangzhou Opera House, is located on the Pearl Riverbank. It has very distinct looks, somewhat similar to a couple of stones. The interior is complete in golden tones.

Dongdaemun Design Centre © Zaha Hadid Architects

Seoul, South Korea. Dongdaemun Design Centre is now the second most visited place in the world. It is a truly unique space for the Korean design industry. 

Meixihu Cultural Centre © Zaha Hadid Architects

Here is another project that we completed last year. The Meixihu Cultural Center in Changsha has a cinema hall, museum, and a grand theatre. We studied local construction methods to ensure quality, especially for the interior.

Zaragoza Pavilion Bridge © Zaha Hadid Architects

Spanish urban infrastructure project. It is a pavilion bridge. Its structure and looks are different from any other. For the exterior, we chose a kind of tiles that is very common in Spain and fits the environment. The interior is a multi-use space that is suited for exhibitions and other events.

Chanel Mobile Art Museum © Zaha Hadid Architects

The next project is Chanel’s Mobile Art Museum. It is easy to install, easy to disassemble and move around. The mobile museum has travelled to Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, and Paris. Chanel invited ten designers to show their works in this museum.

Zaha Hadid Architects also work on small projects: high heels, limited edition collections designed for Brazilian brands, jewellery and more.

We collaborate with fashion brands. Our team designed a ring and a swimsuit together with Burberry, a handbag and silverware with Louis Vuitton. This is a table that people love, we call it “Water Table”. The tabletop has a completely horizontal surface, and the water seems to flow through the internal texture.

Investcorp Building © Zaha Hadid Architects

What we see now is the extension to the old campus of Oxford University in the UK. Its shape is unique, and the material reflects the surroundings.

The other project is campus building we designed for the Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design. It is a high-rise building because the available land is scarce.

The projects below are high-rise and mixed-use commercial buildings. We believe that high-rise buildings are important to a city. They save space and create interesting spaces inside.

Generali Tower © Zaha Hadid Architects

City Life project is a comprehensive development in Milan, Italy. The design plan has a tower in the middle and multi-storey residential area in front and a shopping mall at the ground level.

© Zaha Hadid Architects

This is an apartment project in Singapore, a multi-storey residential development. It’s made up of 9-13 storeys panel houses, 9 high-rise towers, and public facilities.

Galaxy SOHO © Zaha Hadid Architects

Satoshi Ohashi: “Beijing Galaxy SOHO project is important to us. This is the first-ever commercial project for our firm. The work began in 2008 when Beijing hosted the Olympic Games. We faced a lot of challenges working on this project. Time management was tight. Apart from that, we had to maintain a friendly relationship with the surrounding communities.”

The whole concept behind Galaxy SOHO is inspired by the cascading terraces. We tried to recreate an element of the natural landscape in the city. From this aerial photo, you can see that on the right is Beijing’s East Second Ring, and the building facing East Second Ring Road. It reflects the massive scale of this city.

We calculated the size of each building in such a way that it would get enough daylight. From a bird’s-eye view, you see that there are four towers, and each of them has a void in the middle. This void allows for more sunlight.

Wangjing SOHO © Zaha Hadid Architects

After the Galaxy SOHO was complete, we worked on another Beijing project: Wangjing SOHO. There are three towers, the highest one is 200 meters tall. After its completion in 2014, Wangjing SOHO became the entire area’s landmark. It has attracted a variety of entrepreneurs and startups. Many of them work in IT industry.

On the outside, there are four large green areas in the east, west, south and north of the office towers. We designed them together as a landscape park, and the landscape and architecture together bring a very good environment to the surroundings.

Morpheus Hotel Macau © Zaha Hadid Architects

Designing Macau Morpheus Hotel was a challenge for us. When we first saw the requirements for the project, we realised that the owner had already built a 50×100 meters structure on the site. Our team had to take it from there. The shape of this hotel was inspired by a piece of jade that was “carved” in the middle. Building’s structure is exposed. The hotel has 780 rooms. The top floor is a luxurious villa-like unit with an open-air swimming pool. This project is a perfect example of how important technology is. We cannot accurately design such a complex building without using the software.

Making the building process easier while controlling the cost was another tough task. Even though the hotel has a complex shape, most of the glass panels used here are flat. We divided them into triangle-shaped pieces for the twisted parts of the building. The wireframe was made based on a computer model. This is our job to keep everything as simple as possible.

After coming up with a good design concept, you have to find a way to implement it properly. What you see now is the hotel lobby, restaurant, gallery, executive lounge, rooftop swimming pool. You pass by all these spaces when you walk down the ladder. It is a truly unique experience. You feel like you are moving between the outdoors and the indoors.

Leeza SOHO © Zaha Hadid Architects

Beijing Leeza SOHO project is currently under construction. It will be put into use later this summer. The truly unique part of this project is its 200 meters high atrium, the tallest atrium in the world. Leeza SOHO is located on the southwest side of Beijing, right between the second and third ring roads. The idea for this project came from its unique site. Subway lines 14 and 16 are crossing diagonally in the middle of the site. There is no way to connect the foundation underground. We divided the building into two halves and twisted the tower to make it face the city.

Ring-shaped trusses connect the tower’s structures. The key part of the design process is to make sure that shape meets the function. All glass panels used in this project are flat. These are CGIs that help us to stay in control of each part of the project.

Unicorn Island © Zaha Hadid Architects

The next project is the one that we started last year. Chengdu city of the future. It is a compact city, and the buildable area on the island is about 1 million square meters. We wanted to create an urban area that suits people’s lifestyles. And at the same time, it had to be ecologically efficient. The island is walkable, there are no vehicles, and transportation is automated. Motor vehicles will go underground when entering the island and are not allowed to be on the ground level. There is a subway station in the centre of the island. Automated vehicles and bicycles are used as the main means of transportation on the island.

Beijing Daxing Airport © Zaha Hadid Architects

Beijing’s new airport will be complete in June and will start operating in November. The starting point of this project was to design the most efficient airport terminal ever. We came up with this shape because it was the most efficient one. It allows people to reach the boarding gates in the shortest time possible.

The interior structure is supported by six giant pillars in the middle. These pillars also contain water draining system and lighting. Another function is visually guiding people to the gates.


Q: Hello, Mr Satoshi Ohashi, I would like to ask about the professional structure of your firm and how do you work together.

– Cao Hui, Chief Architect of Liaoning Provincial Architectural Design and Research Institute

Satoshi Ohashi: Basically, our firm is a bunch of crazy architects. What is special about our team is that everyone is in love with what they do. We do designs that many people see as crazy.

These architects are geniuses from every part of the world. We have a professional team that helps us to do calculations and programming. Whenever we need a piece of software that we don’t have they will be there to help. They are also architects and they are committed to research in this area. The combination of research and practice is a unique aspect of our firm.

Our company is constantly improving. Apart from architects, computer engineers, interior designers, and industrial product designers, we also have a dedicated team of fashion designers.

Q: Hello Mr Satoshi Ohashi. I just heard you talking about so many projects. I truly admire them. Especially the hand-drawings. I am committed to becoming a top interior designer. I believe that hand-drawings are an essential part of the process. This era is the era of technology. Computers almost eliminated hand drawing. I would like to ask what do you think about this issue. What is the relationship between hand drawing and architecture?

– Postgraduate of Urban and Architectural Design of Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology

Satoshi Ohashi: Thank you for this question. The process of creation or important on its own, no matter whether you draw it with your hand or use a computer. Creative ideas and the possibilities that open up your mind are really important. New tech solutions allow us to put those ideas to work. We have also been hand-drawing. The combination of sketching and CGI also works.

Computers and tech, in general, can open up new possibilities. In most of the projects that you saw today, computer assistance in the later stages of the project is must-have. Some work simply cannot be done by human hand. Computers and hand-drawing are not a choice, they compliment each other.

In the 1980s, our firm had a lot of ideas, and expressing them in a hand drawing was the only option. Today, all of this can be realized with new technology.

Hello, Mr Ohashi. First of all, I think ZHA works are more like luxury items in architecture. I have got two questions.

First, the design seems to be a process of morphological scrutiny and flow. What is built is often a fixed image, a fragment. How do we intercept this fragment?

Second, I know that you are Japanese. Why are there so few projects built in Japan, but there are many projects in China and the Middle East. Is there a connection between Zaha’s work and culture and audience? What do you think is the connection here?

Satoshi Ohashi: Each of our designs is inspired by its site and surrounding urban or natural environment. We also consider the owner’s requirements. In the end, many factors affect the design. It is a complicated process. We discuss and brainstorm ideas within the company, and finally, come up with the right solution.

China and some other countries are currently in a process of rapid development. We also feel that this is a lucky era. It is a great opportunity to improve the design industry together. We are fortunate to be participating in these projects and offer some interesting ideas.

Speaking of Japan, it is in the opposite state now. Most of the important projects were completed 50 years ago. The current development projects face restrictions, and it is difficult to realize complex ideas.

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